On November 22nd 2016, during maintenance in the refinery’s sulfuric acid alkylation unit, two workers were attempting to get a spare isobutane pump working. However, they found that they could not open an inlet plug valve because of a malfunctioning gearbox.
The gear box was an older model, so when four bolts were removed from it, a critical part of the pressure containment infrastructure was opened; releasing 2,000 pounds of pressurized isobutane, a hydrocarbon gas. A fire broke out and four workers were severely burned.
As Nigeria, develops its refinery projects, what lessons can be learnt from this incident?
The main lessons from the US Chemical Safety Board are around human factors. Their recommendations are summarized below:
Create accurate and detailed written procedures for potentially dangerous work. This is critically important when different kinds of equipment or configurations that might cause confusion are present.
- Provide training – focused on equipment and processes – to ensure workers can perform their duties safely, boost hazard awareness and prevent incidents.
- Use the Hierarchy of Controls to alleviate hazards and look at “human factors associated with operational difficulties that exist in your machinery and other equipment.”
In Africa, due to the often large distance between hospitals and worksites, poorer road infrastructure and lower density of specialist hospitals, medical emergencies need to be prepared for more proactively.
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